1) Listen to your body and be comfortable
Make sure you feel comfortable in all the poses and during breathing or meditation. Adjust to use more blocks in postures or perhaps a chair is a useful support, and talk to the teacher about how to make it comfortable if it isn't. Encourage yourself to take easier alternatives if you are feeling tired or overwhelmed, especially during your third trimester.
2) Take extra care in your practice
If you are a beginner, then this will be easier for you as you'll be approaching the practice with less expectations. But if you are an experienced yoga practitioner, you may need to focus on practicing in a new way, changing old habits of yoga practice, and perhaps even letting go of your favourite pose while your pregnant. Your body is changing, daily, and your postures will need to adapt to this, both in the choice of posture, and in how you do them. Of course you still want to stay strong and supple during your pregnancy to avoid common aches and pains, but be careful to avoid over stretching (see below) or straining.
3) Make space for your baby
Stand with the feet wider than your hips and be careful not to squash your baby-bump or feel any pulling in the abdominal area. Forward bends are still wonderful to practice as long as you keep the legs wider, bend the knees and go as far as feels right for you and feel comfortable doing them. Avoid deep twists in the abdomen, keep any twisting lighter and 'above the bra strap' so your shoulders are twisting comfortably, but not your belly. Consider twisting in ways that leave more space in the belly area. Don't push yourself into anything.
4) Start any time after 13 weeks
The sooner you start, the more benefit you will gain and any time from 14 weeks is a safe time to join in unless advised otherwise. And you can continue all the way through as long as you feel good and keep enjoying the practice.
5) Keep your spine strong and healthy
Keeping your back in great shape will help support you all the way through your pregnancy. Focus on keeping your spine lengthened in asana (postures) and use your 'chin lock' (jalandara bandha) to help keep your spine and back of the neck long. Ask your teacher if your not sure of course!
6) Be careful of over stretching
Your body is producing a hormone called Relaxin during your pregnancy which makes you feel more flexible. You might find you can stretch further than usual, but don't be tempted to take advantage of this extra stretch. Your tendons and ligaments won't thank you later if you stretch too far. Don't stretch 100% in anything, hold back a little and be less ambitiious.
7) Engage your pelvic floor
Great to tone this area to facilitate post natal recovery. On the exhale, think about lifting and engaging your pelvic floor.
8) Avoid straining the abdomen
Approach leg lifting carefully, especially if you feel any pelvis discomfort. Listen to the advice of your mid-wife if you any discomfort in your abdomen or pelvis, it might mean you need special consideration in your yoga practice so talk to your teacher.
9) Choose your class carefully
Your yoga teacher should have specialist pregnancy training, but you don't need a specialist pregnancy class unless you want one. (The British Wheel of Yoga offer a good standard of accreditation for pregnancy yoga training).
A good class should be small enough so that the teacher can adjust the poses to ensure they are suitable as your body will change through each week of your pregnancy.
The class can either be a general class that will adjust the poses for you, or a specialist pregnancy class, whichever you prefer.
If your tired, consider a daytime yoga practice when you have more energy.
If you have special needs, consider a private lesson or two first to give you some guidelines on safe practice.
10) Enjoy the class
Yoga practice should feel enjoyable and leave you feeling energised, revitalised, relaxed and calm. You can keep it up as long as it feels good and doesn't leave you feeling over tired. Enjoy...
See more on yoga classes during pregnancy here.
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Affecting up to a third of breast cancer survivors, fatigue can't be underestimated for its impact on a sufferers daily life. Fatigue can be debilitating and is often not taken seriously enough.
A study published recently has demonstrated the benefits of practicing yoga to help overcome persistent fatigue in breast cancer survivors. 12 weeks of yoga practice in a randomised, controlled study not only found significant reduction in fatigue, but also increased vigor.
Details on the study can be found here (1). Also see the British Wheel of Yoga article here.
This doesn't mean heading to your nearest group yoga class however. When suffering from fatigue it is important not to be exhausted by the yoga. A group yoga class would likely be too much to begin with. Short, gentle, regular yoga practices would be more beneficial, gradually progressing as improvements are felt. Personalised home yoga practice, or therapeutically applied yoga, is most effective when embarking on yoga for those suffering from fatigue.
Get in touch for more info on getting started with your own home practice designed to meet your health and energy needs.
(1) Bower, J. E., Garet, D., Sternlieb, B., Ganz, P. A., Irwin, M. R., Olmstead, R. and Greendale, G. (2012), Yoga for persistent fatigue in breast cancer survivors. Cancer, 118: 3766–3775. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26702
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Yep, she has finally arrived --
Yoga Teacher Barbie!
Complete with pink yoga mat, puppy dog and sparkly pink and blue outfit, perhaps she can inspire the 3+ year olds to find out more about yoga.
She comes from the 'I can be...' series of dolls to help the aspirations of the next generation. Her figure still remains impossible, but she has a serene look on her face, and maybe taking up yoga practice will help her relax a bit more.
She reinforces all the girly pink, image driven stereotypes that children and young women have to negotiate. But before we reject her as a bad idea, perhaps we could remember the teachings of Krishnamacharya... aim to meet people where they are and teach them yoga in a way the can understand and accept.
So introducing children early, in a way that fits into their every day, childhood landscape, could be a helpful introduction to yoga that hopefully will bring them into a more realistic understanding.
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I'm biased I know, but I think most people could benefit from yoga practice! I work with a lot of mums, especially in my private yoga therapy work, where women come to me without much time or space for themselves, and have a range of physical, mental and emotional issues such as stiffness, aches on one side from carrying children on one hip, stress through the shoulders, poor sleep, over-eating, worrying, and an over-active mind that refuses to slow down at the end of the day.
These are common complaints but particularly so for mums whose days aren't their own anymore and who struggle to find time to take care of themselves.
Yoga doesn't have to be a weekly class, although this is often the best way to ensure you actually make it on to your mat at least once a week and spend a good hour doing a full yoga practice.
Yoga can also be fitted in to your busy schedule, requiring perhaps as little as 15-20 minutes a day to help keep you physically, mentally and emotionally supported. Think of how you might tend to a garden - keeping it tended to little and often is as good, if not better, than a big session every now and again to keep it all under control.
A practice that is customised for you is ideal, incorporating some physical postures to help energise the body, stretch and release tension, strengthen the posture to help alleviate aches and pains. Plus perhaps some breathing work to settle the mind and restore balance, and perhaps even meditation if interested (which has well known stress-relieving and healthful attributes). All of these practices will help you create and maintain some well-earned space for yourself, and can be fitted in to those small pockets of time once the kids have gone to bed, when they are napping, when they are watching tv, or before you go to bed.
In my group classes I always encourage students to try some yoga practice at home if they are interested. Part-way through the term, I'll often offer them a small handout with a short practice to try for themselves at home. Sometimes students keep it up and come back weeks or months later reporting how much more benefit they get from yoga once they have started regular practice at home.
Of course a daily healthful practice doesn't just have to be yoga, there are other things that you might find you enjoy that keep you motivated to continue with it. But what better way to nurture your health and wellbeing than by giving yourself the gift of a short yoga practice a few times a week to help maintain balance and health in your life.
With the start of the new women's class at YogaSpace it seemed worth exploring why yoga might benefit from being different for men and women. Especially as most classes are mixed and this usually works really well.
Of course there are some fundamental differences in mens and womens bodies but does it mean that a different class is appropriate?
The answer is of course yes AND no. In an ideal world, we would each have a customised yoga practice taylored to our own bodies, energy and how we feel on any particular day, so a class of 1 would be the most beneficial. But in the practical world, a group class has a lot to offer. Plus its actually rather nice being in a room with others trying to explore the same postures.
In general terms, men are physically stronger than women but typically are stiffer. This of course isn't always the case and there are plenty of strong women and stiff women in the world! Practice of yoga postures helps both body types as each yoga posture will help increase mobility and strength, they would simply be approached differently depending on your body type.
Women do have some physical differences that are unique to them however. They might be pregnant or recovering after pregnancy, they might be menstruating or have hormonal cycles, and they are a different body shape. There is a nurturing approach to yoga which is more appropriate in these situations that while relevant to men aswell, their issues may be different or be related to different cycles.
So this new women's yoga class is a more gentle class, respecting the differences women's bodies might be experiencing, and allowing a space to explore yoga that is more taylored to a woman's body. Of course a men's class would be great to start aswell.
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